If You’re in Vancouver: ‘Translating a Flawed Masterpiece’

Dr. Geert Jan van Gelder, who recently translated and edited the Library of Arabic Literature collection Classical Arabic Literature: A Library of Arabic Literature Anthologywill be speaking in Surrey, B.C. on  March 14 about his latest project, al-Ma’ari’s The Epistle of Forgiveness:

Also swiped from the events page.

From the event page:

The Epistle of Forgiveness by the Syrian poet and prose writer Abu l-‘Ala’ al-Ma‘arri (d. 1057) is one of the most unusual books in classical Arabic literature. It is the lengthy reply to a letter written by an obscure grammarian, Ibn al-Qarih. With biting irony, The Epistle of Forgiveness mocks Ibn al-Qarih’s hypocrisy and sycophancy by imagining he has died and arrived with some difficulty in Heaven, where he meets famous poets and philologists from the past. He also glimpses Hell, and converses with the Devil and various heretics. Al-Ma’arri—a maverick, a vegan, and often branded a heretic himself—seems to mock popular ideas about the Hereafter. The first complete translation will appear in 2013; it will include the many digressions, difficult passages, and convoluted grammatical discussions of the original that are typically omitted in other translations, for obvious reasons. It will also include the second part, which is also usually omitted: a point-by-point reply to Ibn al-Qarih’s somewhat rambling letter. Translating the book poses many problems. The interpretation is, moreover, hampered by al-Ma‘arri’s pervasive use of irony.

More here.


  1. ah, this is surrey, british columbia, no surrey, england. drats.

    1. Are you in England?

      1. no, but i could send friends who live in richmond

  2. And, woops!

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